The Homomonument

This memorial in central Amsterdam commemorates all homosexuals who have been persecuted. Opened on September 5, 1987, it takes the form of three large pink triangles made of granite, set into the ground so as to form a larger triangle.  The pink triangle was the symbol used by the Nazis in WWII to identify a homosexual, similar to how a yellow star was used to identify a Jew. My co-opting this symbol, the memorial both forces you to remember the awful suffering caused during the holocaust, and takes the power away from the symbol and back into the hands of the people who suffered.

The idea for a monument began in the 1970s, when gay activists tried to lay a lavender wreath at the National War Memorial in the Dam Square. They were arrested and their wreath was removed. The gay and lesbian rights movement became very active, and within 10 years the idea for a monument had solidified. Beginning in 1979, it took 8 years to raise enough money from both individuals and organizations to make the monument a reality.

The monument consists of three pink granite triangles. One of them has a set of steps leading down to the water. One triangle is set flush with the ground, and the third is set a few feet above ground. Together, these three triangles form a larger triangle, connected by a row of pink granite bricks.

“The alignments of the three points of the larger triangle are symbolic. One points towards the National War Memorial on Dam Square. One points towards the house of Anne Frank, a Jewish girl who was deported to her death by the Nazis. The third points towards the headquarters of COC Nederland, the Dutch gay rights group founded in 1946, making it the oldest continuously operating gay and lesbian organisation in the world.” (from Wikipedia)

We passed the Homomonument while on our canal cruise. This is the view from the water. You can see that a bouquet of flowers was placed near the edge.

This is the view of the same triangle from the bridge. It is a popular area to sit and think. I do think that the chain railing kind of ruins the appearance.

In terms of memorial design, I quite like this because of it’s subtlety. The gay and lesbian movement is so large, and so multifaceted, that it would be hard to come up with a single icon or image that captures everything. This is definitely connected to the persecutions at the hands of the Nazis, but it also takes a larger view.  I sort of wish that it had a larger impact on it’s surroundings, even though it was specifically designed to be understated.

There are so many monuments to events and people in the world, I think it’s often difficult to differentiate the really important ones from the ones that history will forget in 200, 300 or 400 years. Yet this is one that really needs to stand the test of time. The past 30 years have brought an amazing amount of social change, and I’m sure the next 30 years will continue the trend!

Maybe someday a young student will look at this monument and think how strange and awful our world was that we persecuted people for their sexual orientation. I can only hope that it becomes a totally foreign idea, yet one that will be remembered because of monuments like this.


Posted on 06/08/2010, in Travel to Europe and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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